The Twins chose a high school pitcher from Puerto Rico with a first-round draft pick in 2012. Jose Berrios says that’s not the most transformational day of his life.
Berrios, the Twins’ young ace, says it was the day in 2011 when he began working with trainer Josue Lionel Rivera, who channeled Berrios’ always eager work ethic into a program that has made Berrios a video star — and an All-Star.
“He is my trainer,” Berrios said. “He is my mentor. I met him in 2011. From that year, every day I hear from him, do stuff, do good stuff, and that’s what I always wanted, to be the best. He helped me do that.”
Before meeting Rivera, Berrios followed old-school pitching workouts, which meant running followed by more running, interrupted by throwing. Rivera added beach workouts and car-pushing exercises that Berrios proudly posts on the internet.
The power gained through those workouts gave Berrios, 24, the cantaloupe biceps and corrugated core of a middleweight, and the leg drive to throw harder than should be expected from someone generously listed at 6-feet, 185 pounds.
“I always had a passion for this sport but with him I created more professionalism, how we could train in the right way to help me pitch,” Berrios said. “For me, it changed everything. He taught me how my body moves, how it feels when I’m bad, when I’m struggling, and when I do great, how I’m moving the right way.
“We went to the beach every Friday in January. It’s fun and I got stronger. Day by day, I keep getting better.”
Year by year, for sure. After honoring Twins tradition by struggling as a rookie, he has produced ERAs of 3.89 and 3.84, which doesn’t tell the whole story.
In 2017, he pitched 145⅔ innings, striking out 8.6 batters per nine innings with a 2.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 1.229 walks-and-hits-per-inning ratio (WHIP). In 2018 he became an All-Star, pitching 192⅓ innings with a 9.5 strikeout rate, a 3.31 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 1.144 WHIP.
Since 2010, only three Twins pitchers have produced 200 innings in a season: Carl Pavano, Phil Hughes and Ervin Santana. With his work ethic and place at the front of the rotation, Berrios should join that group this year.
“We want to get stronger, but we always push for more flexibility and the right movements,” Berrios said. “We work smart. I feel really flexible. I feel great. I don’t feel too big to throw the ball.”
The only concern the Twins have expressed about Berrios is that he is capable of working too hard. The day after a recent spring start, he could have showed up in the clubhouse around 9 or 9:30 a.m., like many players, or he could have invoked his privilege as an ace and slept in. Instead, he was in front of his locker, wearing workout clothes, at 7 a.m.
Wednesday, Berrios allowed two runs to the Red Sox in 3 ⅓ innings, then sprawled on the floor of the visiting clubhouse at JetBlue Park to do core exercises. In a game filled with superior and motivated athletes, Berrios is an effort outlier.
“I couldn’t have a better impression of him in that regard,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s extremely motivated. I don’t know any other way to say it. I don’t know how much more motivated a person could be regardless of what industry they’re in or what they’re doing.
“He wants to be good, and he’s willing to work to do it. Just knowing that makes you feel really good about what he’s doing on a daily basis. You know he’s putting himself in position for success.
“He’s exceptionally mature. When you combine that kind of maturity and the motivation that he works with every day, with that kind of ability, you don’t want to put a ceiling on what he can do.”
Since meeting Rivera, Berrios has raised the roof.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org